Gilmore Girls and Grief

(I promise, no spoiler alerts.)

Oh, Gilmore Girls on Netflix, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The coffee, that refrigerator, Kirk, Kirk’s pig, Paris’s bathroom meltdown, more coffee, Chilton, Jess…sigh…Jess, Lorelei and Luke, Paul Anka (the dog), Paul Anka (the singer), Babette, Gypsy, Emily’s maid Berta and her extended family, Sookie, Lane and her drums, and especially Emily, Rory, and Lorelei.

This show has had a special place in my heart for the past sixteen years. I followed the exploits of mom Lorelei and daughter Rory for seven seasons, and I continue to watch it in reruns, especially if I am having a rough day. Just settling in on the couch with the strange and lovable misfits of Stars Hollow heals my aching body and soul.

So when Netflix announced a four episode reboot, I was both excited and anxious. I wanted to see where everyone was now that almost ten years had passed since Rory got on Obama’s press bus and Luke and Lorelei finally kissed again. I knew since Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel Palladino were in charge, the integrity and essence of Gilmore Girls would be honored.

After one day of binge-watching on my phone, I was not disappointed. Everything was there and more. I know some have complaints about plot holes and pacing, but I was entranced. 

What I loved most about Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall is how grief was addressed. Richard Gilmore, the family’s patriarch –  Emily’s husband, Lorelei’s father, and Rory’s grandfather – has died of a sudden and massive heart attack. A wife of fifty years is forced to reevaluate her privileged life. A daughter who had an ever-shifting relationship with her father now feels untethered.  A granddaughter no longer has his steady voice to help guide her through life’s precarious tunnels. All three of these women are stumbling. They are angry, hurting, and lost in this new world without Richard Gilmore. Each woman is frantically searching how to navigate life. I won’t give anything away, but the process is magnificent to watch.

Grief is never a neat, tidy paragraph with an introductory sentence, some exposition, and then a conclusion. It doesn’t follow some pattern. It’s messy and heart-wrenching and damn awful.

It has been almost eight years since I lost my father to the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The grief is still present. It has dulled a bit, but it continues to poke at my heart.

This father of mine was a father of his times. He didn’t get down on the floor and play with us, there weren’t long conversations about our feelings, and he definitely wasn’t my best friend. He was my dad…dependable, loving, and kind. Always there…sitting in his easy chair listening to his big band music, grumbling over money, and worrying about his children.

When he died, each member of my family dealt with his loss in separate and distinct ways. I can’t speak for my siblings, his grandchildren, or my mother, but I know I felt a sense of despair I had never known before. It was cavernous, like I was calling his name out into the canyon, but I just kept hearing my own voice echoing back to me. Like Lorelei, I had to figure out how to live without my father’s influence, his presence, his fundamental character.

Shit, I’m still struggling. The loss of a parent never really goes away, it just becomes a distant tapping on your heart, reminding you of what made you….well, you.

I know I will revisit Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall again and again. These stories are music, both funny and sad, filled with emotions that are oh so relatable to my kooky life.

Thank you, Gilmore Girls, for reminding me of the brilliant agony of grief and what it still continues to teach me about love.

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